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Hinduism

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Hinduism is known as the world's oldest religion. According to ISKCON Educational Services (2004), it is hard to construct a timeline because Hinduism has no identifiable human founder or specific origin in history. It is so old that its past goes into pre-history. It is extremely diverse with the Hindu people being more interested in the meaning of events than in providing first hand records. There is also no clear-cut divide between history and myth.

It is believed that Hindu traditions appeared around 1500 B.C.E. and can be traced to the ancient Aryans as they migrated into southeastern Asia. It was during this time that the Vedic hymns were composed. These hymns, called Vedas, were composed by different Brahman priests and were orally passed down between the generations. They contained knowledge that was considered useful at the time and were not based on just one person's religious belief. The Vedas told the spiritual thoughts of the Aryas who lived in India (Craig, A., Graham, W., Kagan, D., Ozmet, S., Turner, F., 2011).

The Vedas were categorized into four primary groups. Rig Veda contained hymns or mantras to God recited by the main priest; Sama Veda contained hymns sung or recited by assistant priests; Yajur Veda contained the proper ways of performing rituals; Atharva Veda contained magical incantations and charms. Along with their spiritual value, they also gave a good view of everyday life in India four thousand years ago (Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia, n.d.).

Scholars have determined the oldest of the four, Rig Veda, was written down in Sanskrit sometime after 300 B.C.E. The Vedas are the most ancient, extensive texts in an Indo-European language (Internet Sacred Text Archive, 2010)....

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...ny reasons for going on a pilgrimage. Some of these include remembering special people (saints); to fix the mind on God; for spiritual development; for purification and atonement of sins; for meeting holy people to get guidance; to perform religious rites; and for self-reflection. Not all Holy sites are in India. As Hindus have migrated they have established their own sacred places wherever they live (ISKCON Educational Services, 2004).

Hinduism is a mystical religion that allows its followers to seek their own path of enlightenment so they might become one with God. It is exceedingly rich with traditions and has been termed "a way of life". Today, Hinduism has grown to become the world's third largest religion, after Christianity and Islam. It has approximately 950 million followers, which is about 14% of the world's population (Religious Tolerance, 2011).
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